‘First Time, Best Time’ For 18-point, 170-Inch Buck
Monroe County hunter finds success the first time hunting a stand he had placed two years ago.
For four years, cameras recorded the periodic appearances of a giant 170-class white-tailed deer roaming Monroe County, but no human eyes ever saw the monster buck—until one special day.
“This deer usually came out between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.,” said Hunter Roberson. “Nobody ever saw him in person during daylight. I have a stand about 200 to 300 yards away from where the deer appears on camera.”
Hunter hunts a 400-acre lease about 20 minutes from his home in Macon. The habitat consists mostly of planted pines with some hardwoods on the backside of the property. A creek runs through the tract and wraps around it. About two years ago, Hunter placed a ladder stand on the top of a ridge overlooking a hardwood bottom, but he never hunted it until Oct. 29, 2022.
About 45 minutes before sunrise on that fateful Saturday morning, the 25-year-old sportsman climbed into his stand for the first time. Hunter’s dad, Terry, hunted another stand about 400 yards away. His girlfriend, Amber Dunagan, sat in her own stand on the front side of the property about 1,000 yards away.
“We have cameras all over the property,” Hunter said. “This big deer has been showing up on a camera near my stand pretty religiously between midnight and 4 a.m. On the way to the stand that morning I was thinking that he must get on his feet in daylight sometime. He’s not going to be bedded down all day and then decide he wants to get up and move around at 4 a.m. I had a gut feeling to go there that morning and try it.”
Situated about 20 feet off the ground on the ridge, the stand provides a good vantage point to see in many directions. Sometimes, deer moved through that bottom beneath the stand. At other times, they stayed near the top of the ridge.
“From the stand, I can see the ridge going off to my left,” Hunter said. “It wraps around back to my right with a big bottom straight in front of me and a little to the left. It’s a little thick in there. At this time, the leaves still hadn’t fallen off the trees yet. At about 8:20 that morning, I noticed something moving off to the right-center and spotted a big-bodied buck.”
About 100 yards away, the casually walking deer angled toward Hunter waiting on the top of the ridge. He looked through the scope on a 6.5mm Creedmoor and saw the buck’s massive main beam and G4 tine on his right side. Hunter also spotted a distinctive piece of antler shaped like a crab claw.
“All I saw was his right side, but I knew it was that big deer we had been catching on camera at night,” Hunter said. “I had pictures of him, and I saw that crab claw so I knew this was that big buck. He never stopped. He was cruising toward me. I was trying to look around and see where my next available shot was going to be as he kept getting closer to me.”
Soon, the deer turned parallel to Hunter but kept moving. At about 60 yards away, it stopped slightly off to the right of Hunter’s stand. It stood behind some trees and began rubbing its antlers against a limb.
“I didn’t have a clear shot at this point, but he had no idea I was there,” Hunter said. “About 5 feet in front of him to his right, I noticed about a 5-foot opening between two pine trees in the direction he was moving. That would be the last possible place to get a good shot at him before he disappeared into thick cover.”
Hunter looked through his scope and put the crosshairs in the center of that lone gap between the trees. After rubbing its antlers against the limb, the buck resumed its slow, steady walking. Finally, the deer stepped into view in the scope. Still walking, the impressive buck took five more steps. Hunter pulled the trigger at 8:27 a.m.
“He never stopped as I fired,” Hunter said. “I couldn’t see the antlers very well before I pulled the trigger because it was so thick. When I fired, he jumped up, kicked his back legs and took off. I saw him run pretty hard for about 20 more yards. Then, he disappeared into the thick stuff. Based off his reaction, I felt pretty good that I made a solid hit on him.”
Hunter sat in his stand for another 30 minutes before climbing down. After reaching the ground, he took about five steps and heard something walking exactly where he last saw the colossal buck. Could this be his big buck still alive and unhurt? Out from the cover emerged a 5-point buck, walking where the bigger deer vanished.
The young man crouched down and watched the young buck feeding. It finally approached to within 10 yards of him before meandering down into the bottom. No way could this young buck be the forest lord he spotted earlier, Hunter thought. He headed to where the big buck had stood when he pulled the trigger.
“I wanted to go to where I thought I shot the big buck to see if I could find any blood,” Hunter said. “I didn’t see a single drop of blood, piece of hair, or anything like that. I went back up into the stand again to look at the spot where I shot the deer to make sure I was looking in the right spot. I got back up in the stand and held tight for a little while.”
His dad Terry came down from his stand at about 9:30 a.m. and went to pick up Amber in her stand. Having heard the shot earlier, they headed over to Hunter’s stand to see if they could help. The three of them searched the area to no avail.
“I had a good idea of where he was when I shot the buck,” Hunter said. “We started walking in the direction of where he ran and where I saw him last. We still didn’t see any blood whatsoever. By now, I’m wondering if I missed him, but by the way he reacted when I shot, I had in the back of my mind that I hit him.”
The group followed where the big deer ran looking for clues or any evidence of a wound along the way. They found nothing. About 50 yards in that direction, they came to a dry creek bed. Perhaps the deer died in that creek bed somewhere, but they found no sign of the buck in or around that creek.
“About 20 yards on the other side of the creek bed, a pine tree fell down,” Hunter said. “I thought the deer might have hidden in that fallen tree and died. I went to the front side of the pine and looked all through the limbs. I never did see him and still didn’t find any blood. At that point, we decided to call for a tracking dog.”
The Robersons contacted Timmy Oller, owner of Outer Banks Deer Tracking. Oller arrived with his tracking dog at about noon. They put the dog on the spot where Hunter fired at the deer and off it went.
“The dog went straight to where I had gone previously, toward that dry creek bed,” Hunter said. “It crossed the creek bed and went up the other side to the pine tree where I had stopped looking for the deer. I was looking on the front side of the tree and the dog went to the back side of it. The dog found the deer 5 yards from where I stopped looking for him. The deer’s back was toward us, so I couldn’t see its white belly. It took the dog three minutes to find the deer 75 yards away from where I shot it. I walked to within feet of that deer and had no idea he was there.”
Without the help of the dog, Hunter might never have recovered that deer. He probably would have just chalked it up to a clean miss. The bullet did not exit the deer’s body. With the deer still walking slowly, the bullet struck slightly back from where Hunter wanted to hit it. The bullet likely took out the deer’s lungs.
“When I was talking to Timmy as he was coming with the dog, I told him I shot the deer with a 6.5mm Creedmoor. He said, ‘Yep, that’s why you don’t have any blood. I’ve tracked six or seven deer this year that had been shot with a 6.5mm Creedmoor and none of them bled. We found every single one of them.’ That made me feel better. My dad normally shoots a .308. I usually shoot a 7mm-08, but I let Amber borrow my gun. I borrowed Dad’s 6.5mm Creedmoor.”
The non-typical rack sported 18 scorable points longer than an inch. A few days later, a taxidermist unofficially scored the 202-lb. deer at 168 5/8 inches.
“I grew up hunting deer with my dad,” Hunter said. “I killed my first deer when I was 7 years old and killed many since then. By far, that’s the biggest deer I’ve ever killed. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen. This buck is going to be hard to beat for the rest of my life.”
Monroe County Best Bucks Of All-Time
Rank Score Name Year County Method Photo 1 240 3/8 (NT) John Hatton Jr. 1973 Monroe Gun View 2 191 4/8 Buck Ashe 1961 Monroe Gun View 3 173 3/8 Unknown 1979 Monroe Gun 4 170 4/8 T.E. Land 1958 Monroe Gun 5 187 6/8 (NT) Danny Robinson 2019 Monroe Gun View 6 162 6/8 James Mock 1971 Monroe Gun 7 185 6/8 (NT) Mike Gordon 2012 Monroe Found 8 161 Ronnie Hay 1972 Monroe Gun 9 183 3/8 (NT) Addison Wallace 2020 Monroe Gun 10 159 L.L. Rowan 1974 Monroe Gun
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